Zidane was rightly criticized after Paris, but he is now due credit for recognizing the major tactical issues from Wednesday and, for the most part, fixing them. There was nothing wrong with the personnel, it was all about the spacing of Madrid’s lines. That’s why Zizou went with a near identical line-up bar Ramos for Militao. It’s the understanding of space — when to condense the pitch, when to expand, as well as when to solidify your unit and when to open up — which is critically important at the highest level of the game. If a team can collectively move and transition as a unit, then there is no problem playing someone like James Rodriguez as a midfielder, because when a proper structure is used, he proved he can thrive. The improved structure and “chip on the shoulder” attitude meant there were many top performances in a moral boosting win.
Full match ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—6: First clean sheet at the Sanchez Pizjuan for 17 years. Madrid’s defensive solidity meant Courtois did not even deal with a single shot on target.
Dani Carvajal—7: Some sloppy passes and a missed 1 v 1 in the first half had many skating Dani, but he turned it around in the second stanza with a very solid defensive display — keeping both Reguilón and Vazquez quiet and then producing the perfect assist for Karim Benzema to head home. He’s now the joint top assist leader for La Liga with 3 assists this season.
Raphael Varane—8: Absolutely immense — Varane was a wall that could not be passed. His headed clearances in the dying minutes of the game were essential in giving Madrid time to breathe and rediscover their shape. A team high 9 clearances.
Sergio Ramos—8.5: The captain returned to the starting eleven and what a performance he put in— he shut down everything that came his way with 2 tackles and 6 clearances.
Ferland Mendy—8: Another stalwart in the backline, the Frenchman’s pure 1 v 1 defending is unparalleled in the team.
Casemiro—9: What more can you ask of Casemiro? Was near perfect tonight. Broke up counter attacks, covered for the defense, had crucial interceptions (2) and dominated the midfield with 4 tackles. He was composed in possession and dealt with Sevilla’s press with ease.
Toni Kroos—7: Hardest the German has worked in years. Unlike in Paris, the German tracked his runners defensively. Couple that with his composure on the ball and precision passes, you have yourself one of the best midfielders in the game.
James Rodriguez—8: Left everything on the pitch and proved, that with the right structure, he can play as a midfielder. Had 3 tackles in this game including a dispossession of Banega high up the pitch which nearly resulted in a goal.
Gareth Bale—7: Worked tremendously hard both ways. Reguilón was a constant runner down Sevilla’s left flank and the Welshman did a superb job in tracking those runs and supporting Carvjal.
Eden Hazard—6: A very quite first half, but grew into the match in the second half. Drew 4 fouls as Sevilla looked to stop him on the counter. His ability to hold on to possession, turn his man, and drive on the counter will be invaluable in allowing the team to breathe and transition with ease.
Karim Benzema—8.5: The Frenchman has become Mr.Clutch. His goals are invaluable and he has repaid the faith shown him by Zidane. Already up to 5 goals in the La Liga season.
Fede Valverde—6.5: Came on for an exhausted James in the 75th minute. Completed all his four passes with a 100% pass accuracy and put in one good crunching tackle.
Lucas Vazquez —N/A: Brought on in the 89th minute for Eden Hazard.